By Manuel Meza Cuervo
2020 will be remembered as the year of the pandemic; 2020 will be remembered as the year that challenged the social systems, the economic systems, and governments around the world. But most importantly, it will be remembered as the year that reminded this generation that one of the essential values of humankind is its resiliency.
This has been a year of many firsts. And for the first time, the RC51 decided to have an online conference.
The RC51 Annual Conference, set to take place in Porto Alegre 2020 World Forum, was put off due to the pandemic. In the two months after the postponement announcement, the RC51 board organized it virtually instead, taking advantage of modern communication technology. Two committees were formed: a scientific one, in charge of choosing the papers, and an organising one, responsible for promoting the conference and handling all the technical and administrative arrangements.
Some of us had some experience managing communication technologies such as Zoom and Google Hangouts; they are easy to handle, and almost all of the global academic community is familiarized with them. The real challenge was to design the conference so that we could feel close to each other despite the technological barrier. To achieve this connection, we prioritized the discussion over the exposition time in three sessions for three days.
We asked our participants to send us a five-minute video where they presented their work in addition to their papers. That allowed us to spread their contributions through our social media. We had never done this before. This idea came to life to overcome the pandemic challenges, and I hope this practice continues in the following conferences.
For the organizing committee, holding an annual conference was not enough. We wanted to tap the full potential of technology, so we decided to have the two first sessions in the usual format (splitting time between the presentation and Q&A) while having a third one as an experimental and collaborative open session. In the last session, we discussed the core concepts and methodologies of Sociocybernetics using a collaborative tool called IdeaBoardz.
With over thirty people in each session and 15 papers presented from 11 countries, the first RC51 Virtual Conference was a success. We also had a great experience connecting, collaborating, and working on a virtual board with stickers.
The pandemic gave us a challenge as a research committee and showed us a new way to stay in touch. Of course, nothing is comparable to the live experience, but with the XXI century technology, we now have a powerful tool to find new ways to connect despite the challenges that may arise.